Saturday, September 28, 2013

Is EA ‘Golden’ Ratio: 70% Strategic & 30% Tactical?


Enterprise Architecture is regarded as a discipline linking strategy formation to strategy execution - a "strategic conversation" is based on the shared, systematic model of enterprise that is the enterprise architecture description. EA is one form of formal 'strategic conversation' that links strategy to technical implementation.

EA is strategic to convey the vision and tactical to bring the reality, as it defines (1) the future business process and business technology state; and (2) the relationships between vision, strategy, processes and technology. EA that focuses on all the details will fail because of the 'boiling the ocean' problem but conversely EA that pays no attention at all to the details risks becoming unrealistic and impractical. A comprehensive enterprise architecture provides a single dynamic picture and multiple views of the business as it is, and as it will be.

EA is strategic in its nature, and highly tactical in its applicability. EA is about describing the business as a complete system. Consider that EA has to be multi-disciplinary, you can see that without a clear alignment with the company directives then EA role gets diluted into a solution architect, which mostly operate intra-operational unit. If it isn’t cross organizational and strategic.If it isn't about integration or standardization, then it isn't EA. It is solution architecture.

Enterprise architecture includes both business architecture and IT architecture- is strategic in its vision and tactical in its realization. At any point in time there are three EA aspects: Current EA, Future EA, and a current to future realization strategy road-map. MIT CISR defines enterprise architecture as “the organizing logic for business process and IT capabilities reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.” 

Remaining engaged is what prevents EA from becoming academic. “Remaining engaged" means being aware of the difficulties encountered when trying to execute strategy - and helping to get past them. It is a matter of judgment - the implementers on the ground are the experts and they probably know better the right tactical solutions - they don't need inappropriate interference from EAs. But this doesn't mean "leaving all the messy implementation details to others". Standards, principles, guidelines, informal guidance can be managed via EA engagement.

EA provides guidance does not make it tactical by nature. While tactical realizations are underway, EA focus remains on ensuring that the business and IT strategies stay aligned, and EA is glue between strategy and execution. There are two risks in EA getting into too much tactical:
1) ineffective or inappropriate meddling
2) losing focus on the strategic and important.

EA Governance is essential to the success of a tactical process, yet tactical realizations of the strategy are a separate function altogether.  EA Governance includes:

1) 'Transmitting' intended strategy into guidance during execution (realization)
2) 'receiving' feedback from execution into where strategy needs to be modified (because it is unrealistic or too costly to implement or doesn't actually fit, stretch or match the position on the ground or ....). Yes, this is EA Governance.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things EA brings is an 'explicatory semantic interpretation service' in bridging the divides- It is generally recognized that a cultural gap has grown up between the business people and the technologists - and this is often expressed as "speaking different languages". EA can bridge the divides by explaining to the business culture in their terms (and semantics) what the technology and systems mean to their enterprise, and conversely to the technologists what the business environment means to their technology and systems. That would be strategically important. Perhaps the characteristics of the EA should include a little linguistics, a little psychology and a little philosophy, along with all the other things like business and technology knowledge

Based on all analysis above, could it mean the 'golden ratio' of EA is 70% strategy and 30% tactic? And any EA should be able to operate on such ratio with well-setting metrics at each level. EA is a strategic and non-technical exercise, and at another level, EA is a tactical and technical exercise.“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  - Sun Tzu








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